Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Birthday Post.

My 25th birthday fell on a Monday. Boooring!

The weekend leading up to my transition into being a true quarter-lifer was nice. A date to see the Bergen Philharmonic at Grieghallen was lovely - simply because it was something different to do. Most concert halls don't allow you to buy drinks (at least none that I've been to), but at Grieghallen you could buy wine and chocolate and take it into the concert with you. Kinda like a movie theater. I thought it was brilliant and stupid. Brilliant because it's fun to drink wine and eat chocolate anytime, especially while watching a performance. It was stupid, however, because drinking a glass of wine after dinner, in the dark, while listening to classical music is a great way to get the audience ready for a snooze.

Here's Grieghallen:

Annnnd here's my shoes. I share them because I love them. (You know I love glitter pumps because I own two pairs - one red, one gold - and one of those was the shoes I wore on my wedding day).

I braved the cobblestone streets of Bergen to wear these, simply because it was neither wet nor icy that night - and it was totally worth it! A girl's gotta enjoy her shoes every now and then!

After a dis-harmonic, skin-crawling, goosebump-making 24 minute song featuring a violin soloist, I thought Stian would give up any cultural experience forevermore. But, after a good stretch and another glass o' vino during intermission, we settled in to see what they could do with Beethoven. In a word, it was magical. They were SO good! It was a welcome change in our movie watching routine.

After two glasses of wine apiece and a half-great concert (Beethoven half, only), we headed for home and were back by 10. On a Friday night. The Friday before my birthday. Um, excuse me, but when the heck did we become an old, boring, dare I say mature married couple?! Saturday and Sunday didn't change this new opinion of 'us' as we dropped by to visit some friends and meet their sweet newborn baby, and spent an entire day cleaning and puttering around the house. Yes, I said puttering. Puttering around the house is what old people do. Not two 25 year old newlyweds. What. the. heck.

I wasn't expecting much on my birthday this year because it was on a Monday, and like I said, we're old now.  But it was my first birthday where Stian and I were in the same time zone and country, and he spoiled me. (And rightfully so!)

When I came home from work, he was in the kitchen making a yummy steak dinner with a red wine sauce and potatoes au gratin. It was delish. I think he and I were impressed with his cooking skills! Top that off with some beautiful roses (which I neglected to photograph and are currently dying a slow death), and surprise tickets to see a movie, we had lovely evening. After the movies, we came home and had the one thing I've been wanting for months: mint chocolate chip ice cream. (Norway's ice cream selection isn't impressive, by the way).

A birthday like that on a Monday night??? I guess we're not so old, after all.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I just realized, I haven't introduced you to the newest addition to our little family!

8 weeks old!
This is Potet. (Potet means potato in Norwegian, and he's a couch potato!).

When we got him, we thought he was 8 weeks, but when we did the math we realized he was only 6 weeks when we brought him home, and not brave enough to jump off the couch.

Fears conquered, he now climbs everything from the curtains to attempting to shimmy his way up the door frames.

Still perplexed by the role of his tail in his life, he constantly chases it, bites it, forgets about it, and then starts the whole thing over again.

He's got one red potato sized spot on his left side, and another on his right hip. 

His favorite toy is a crumpled up piece of paper. He's so proud of it and he walks with swagger when he carries it around. It's the simple things in life, right??

He takes a wee on my blanket (and only mine, never Stian's....should I be flattered?) whenever he gets the chance, and is therefore left to sleep in the living room each night. Hard to resist this face though: 

This little potato plays until he drops. He'll be sprinting around the living room (causing terror and fright in his roommates...*ahem* me and Stian, that is) until he literally falls into a heap of exhaustion and then peace reigns over our home once more. 

I love his name, but I wonder what the neighbors will think when I'm calling 'potato! potato! come home, potato!' off of our balcony each night (in Norwegian, of course) once he's old enough to go outside. 

Uff da, Potet!!

(I just adore this little darling, but I also my Southern California cat Charles, who is being lovingly taken care of by my parents. Is it weird that I have a picture of him on my night table?). 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just Sayin'...

...I'd rather have snow over rain any day.

It's bright, it's fresh, and it's not nearly as annoying when it falls in your eye. It's amazingly beautiful to watch fall out of the sky (especially the huge snowflakes!) and it's pretty fun to play in.

However, since it's Bergen, it all turns to slush and then gets icy over night.  I know I'd rather have rain over icy roads/sidewalks because I'm pretty sure a broken bone is looming in my future, but I will never give up a snowy day for a rainy one....

All in all, I'm surviving my first winter in this dark and rainy place. Reeeeaaaallly looking forward to the summer sun, though. (Forget Spring, let's go straight to summer!).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Slightly Frustrated Ex-patriate: That's Me.

I applied for my skilled workers visa on August 3, 2011. When I called at the end of September, I was told my application was "in the queue." When I called at the end of November, they said "oh, you haven't received it yet? It was mailed in October."  So I traveled to the police station, waited over an hour in line only for them to tell me that I was in the 'wrong line'. Fantastic. So I pulled another number for the right line, and waited another hour.

They took my picture, and put a sticker in my passport and sent me away.

Taking care of some more business during my Christmas holiday, I also stopped by the tax office to hand over our 'official' marriage license. Apparently, if you want to be married in Norway, your marriage license has to have an 'apostille' stamp from the place it was issued. Naturally, our original copy didn't have that, so I mailed it to my dear dad, who mailed it Sacramento, which was mailed back for insufficient postage, which was resent to Sacramento with the correct postage. It was stamped and stapled to a letter from the capitol saying that it was, after all, an authentic document, and then mailed back to my dad in Los Angeles and then mailed back to me here in Bergen. What an ordeal. I dropped it off at the tax office, where I was told they would register our marriage and it would be mailed back to me. With the husband's instruction, I also asked about getting a new tax card. Apparently they send you a new one at the beginning of each new year.

That would be a really nice piece of information to share with the new people here, don't you think? I had no idea that you have to get a new card every year (it basically tells you and your employer how much you will be taxed, as I understand it).

It's January 10th, and have I received my new tax card? Nope. With the threat of 50% tax looming over my February paycheck, I made a quick call to the tax office this morning. I told the tax people that I haven't received it yet. They looked up my information and confirmed that no, I have not received it. Naturally, I asked what the next steps are, and they said that since I have a temporary personal number (pretend it's like an SSN, American readers - but temporary), I have to fill out a form and deliver it to the tax office only because they need to be sure of my identity (which means: bring your passport and ANY immigration papers/work contracts/etc that I've received). I left work early, waited at the office (it goes fairly fast, actually), and finally stepped up to the counter.

On the form I filled out, there's a place for "date of departure," which is basically asking when I will be leaving Norway. I left it blank because I have no intention of leaving any time soon. The woman looking over my form was confused by this, but I explained I married a Norwegian guy and work here and will be staying awhile.

So what'd she do?

Oh, she handed me another form because apparently I can't have a 'temporary' number anymore in light of this new information.

I grew weary of this because my temporary number is used for everything: it's on my visa that I just spent time at the police station for, it's my bank id, it's connected to my telephone number, etc. and by being issued another new number, I'll have to call the immigration department (which is....worse than the DMV?), I'll have to take a trip to the bank, and so many other things.

Then, she asked me for my marriage license...which I didn't think of bringing because it was only mailed back to us from that very office a week and half ago. She started to say I would need to come back with it, but I protested with: "well, I brought in about 3 weeks ago and it was just mailed back to me....isn't that in the system somewhere?" Ahh, she found it. Yes, I was in fact married to Stian, after all.

It's supposed to take a week to get this new card, but I'll be honest: I will be shocked if I get it that fast, because I haven't received anything on time or without an annoyed phone call. Nothing but inconvenient and inconsistent experiences for this expat!!!

Norway is notorious for bureaucratic nonsense (but what country isn't, I mean really?), and I feel like I'm experiencing it's full potential. I don't know what it's like to be an 'immigrant' anywhere else, but I think I'd rather be an immigrant here than in the States because I've heard that's pretty rough, too.

Although, maybe they're better at telling you what to expect, and when and where to take care of things, because they really don't tell you anything here. Thank goodness for a husband that's a native, and an employer who knows what I need so that I can get paid every month.

This will get easier...

....eventually. Good thing I'm lovin' it here! (You know, besides all the stuff I just wrote about...)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Life of a House Plant.

One of life's simple pleasures: plants.

I've never been particularly good at keeping them alive, but I am happy to report that I've only killed 2 out of 6 plants that have come into my home. And that's a good record for me. Typically, I forget to water them and they die an unpleasant death (much like a certain pet rabbit I had, but that's another story for another day that maybe I'll share if I can ever forgive myself). 

When we moved in to this apartment, we bought a little tree and an orchid. Soon enough, I bought a second orchid and then the most adorable plant with very sweet, very small white blossoms. As it always happens, the blooms of the orchids and the sweet little plant eventually began to wilt, to turn brown, to fall off. Slowly they became bare and boring, but I've kept a good eye on them, anyway. I water them often, even talk to them occasionally while they sit in my kitchen sink. I don't have conversations with them, of course, (I'm not that loopy!) but I just give them little pep talks. Something along the lines of "C'mon plant. You can do it, I know you can!"

It seems to be working. They're sprouting new leaves (although I can't figure out how without any sunshine...ever!). The sweet little plant has the most delicate leaves and I constantly knock them off when I try to water it - but I always apologize...it's neither personal nor intentional. 

The two that were killed, I'm sorry to say, were stuck on the window sill, forever being pushed aside, and eventually left behind the curtain. Forgotten until it was too late. They were succulents, and they shriveled up into the most pathetic site I've ever seen. Complete with cobwebs. No amount of pep talks or apologies (or water, for that matter) could revive them. Poor things. 

Death aside, I get a little joy out of my up-and-coming green thumb. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Trip to the Gingerbread City

Yet another giant tent was set up in the center of Bergen (it seems like there's always a tent for some reason or another), and when I found out that it was the annual Pepperkakebyen (Gingerbread City), I had my heart set on going. Can you imagine? The entire city of Bergen built out of gingerbread?!

The place opened on the 25th of November, and every trip into the city thereafter left me wondering what it must be like inside. 
You could smell all the pepperkaker from anywhere in the square. 

Stian and I went on 'date night' and that's when we found out that it cost 70 kroner per person (almost as much as a movie!), and with a long line, we chose to go another day. 
Every trip to go Christmas shopping was just another inconvenient time to go see what was in that big white tent. 

Christmas came and went. 
The last day of the year had arrived and with nothing better to do, we went into the city with the hope that it was still there. 
Great news! It was. 

There's even a special theme song for this! 

I loved it. Local barnehage's (preschool's) contributed, as well as local families, and even some of the bigger companies in the area. 

Can you tell how happy I am to be there?!  :)
Of course, in true Norwegian fashion, little Norwegian flags adorned many of the houses and buildings in this little gingerbread utopia:

What a wonderful community activity! 

Yes, they had trains going throughout the city!

Honestly, I think this one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I probably need to see more of the world because in the grand scheme of things this is probably pretty lame - but right now, in my little world, this is delightful. 

So many more...

A stage with a band! And an audience made of pepperkaker sitting in pepperkaker chairs!!!!

Super cool ship: 

Pepperkaker Norwegian Flag, too!

A little soccer team, with goals made of straws, and they glued their own faces on. So cute. 

OF COURSE they made airplanes out of pepperkaker!! Bergen's Airport: 

And finally, the sports hall with some little gingerbread people playing some Olympic games: 

And so, that was my first visit to the Pepperkakebyen. It was the absolute perfect thing to do on the last day of the year and I'm definitely going again next time! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012